Do you ever look at someone and think, “When did he get so old”? I walked into the den at Papa T.’s house last week and stopped in the doorway, suddenly taken aback. He was kicked back in his recliner wearing his headphones and sweatpants, listening to yet another book on tape. For some reason he seemed so much older on that Wednesday than he did the Wednesday before. Perhaps, it’s because I’ve been so busy keeping my head down and plowing through life recently that I hadn’t stopped long enough to take a good long look at him. Once I did, I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. Since he can’t see all the way across the room and doesn’t hear well, he didn’t know I was there. I just stood there for a minute and allowed myself to soak up the moment. I allowed myself to think about the fact that his time with us is growing shorter.
I don’t like to think about that. I’ve always known that Hubby and I would spend a great deal of time taking care of Papa T. and Mama J. in their old age. It was one of several life issues we discussed and agreed upon before we got married. And when their health began to decline we just starting jumping in and doing what needed to be done. At first it was extra groceries, an occasional trip to the doctor’s office and a pick up at the drug store. Then came the hand rails on the front porch steps. Then we started making their weekly trip to the grocery store. It takes a while, but eventually you get used to paying for large bottles of FiberCon and the occasional bottle of Fleet. You get used to waiting while the foot doctor noisily sands down their toe nails. You even work through seeing them partially naked or very exposed during medical tests or the passage of a kidney stone in the bathroom floor. And you get used to picking someone up from the floor in the middle of the night.
The weekly trips to restaurants as a family become once a month outings. We’re a well oiled machine when we pull up to Cracker Barrel. Hubby pops open the hatch to the van. I grab Mama J.’s walker out of the back, unfold it and wheel it to her. Teen Angel or Sissy unfolds Papa T.’s cane and helps him into the restaurant and I hold the door and make the table reservation while Hubby gets Mama J. safely inside. He usually carries her purse, too. No matter where we are at, he is never too proud to hold her big old pocketbook, and I am always amazed at how much that makes me love him.
Hubby does most of the day to day stuff that needs to be done for his parents. He mows their yard, drives them to all of their doctor’s appointments, picks up medicine, arranges for repairs to their house and car and does just about anything that needs to be done. He is retired but is a fulltime son. It keeps him plenty busy. It keeps us all busy. Teen Angel pitches in, too. She gets it. She understands that they need the help and that everything she does to help them will help her to feel better about their passing when that time comes. She does laundry for them, puts away groceries and makes at least three trips next door every week to find something in the floor that clumsy hands dropped and weak eyes can’t find. The three of us spend so much time going in and out of their back door that some days it’s hard to tell where our schedule begins and their’s ends. We are…assisted living. And that’s okay.
We are used to it. What we haven’t gotten used to is how fast this journey seems to be moving. It is picking up speed at an alarming rate, and it seemed much more noticeable, to me anyway, last week. Papa T. seemed more tired, slower and much less motivated to fight his battle with aches and pains. He is 74, but he’s an old 74. His body and spirit seem 85 years old. I hope I’m being overly concerned, that that feeling in my gut is misplaced. I hope that he’s been really been this way for a while, and I’ve just been too busy to notice, that nothing has really changed in the last few weeks. I’ve decided that I have allowed myself to think about it long enough, and now it’s time to get busy again. There is too much work to be done. I will get back to plowing through the day to day and getting ready for Papa T’s 75th birthday next week. I want to make sure it’s a good one.
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